Archive for April 2011
Especially working for myself, I can get extremely bummed when I lose a client. Even when it’s for an “it’s not you, it’s me” reason, I tend to take the severance a bit personally at first. In my head, I draft a witty retort to being cut loose, making sure it’s clear that business (and life) will definitely not go on for this person without my greatness. Then, I send a note that’s a little more constructive. A quote from HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me (2007) comes to mind; a therapist shares with a client the insight that she believes it is important to take as much care ending a relationship as was spent beginning one. I spent time back and forth on email, 45 minutes on an introductory call to learn my client’s objectives, time setting up her campaign and walking her though it, driving times to meetings, etc. I might as well spend a few minutes wrapping things up with some care.
Here are points it’s key to hit when you close the door on a working relationship:
What you did (routinely)
Tactfully explain what you were doing on a daily and weekly basis, both to the client directly and behind the scenes. I wasn’t sure my client knew I monitored her Twitter follows, @ mentions, and DMs in real time and answered every inquiry between about 9 am and 12 am within the half hour. Pointing this out highlighted a nice value add that not every consultant may be committed to including.
What you accomplished (already)
Real facts and numbers here. “I was pleased with our progress, adding 20 new Facebook followers and building a Twitter following of 530 in three weeks. The 35 submissions to our contests showcased the interest customers have in your brand.” Focus on you’re accomplishments and what they mean. Show you are meeting your milestones, and that you’re thinking about them to draw conclusions.
What you were going to do
It’s worth reiterating what you had discussed for future action plans, especially highlighting any commitments you had. If you’d come up with something new since your last meeting, mention it here. If you had a contact you were going to intro for some networking opportunities, drop the name now. Maybe even be disgustingly nice and share the name anyway. No hard feelings, right?
What you could do to salvage the relationship
If this breakup hasn’t brought to light a new aspect of your client that’s less than ideal (i.e. she asked you to invoice her two days ago, and then backs out without warning and you question her to stick to an agreement) and you’d like to continue working together, grovel a bit to salvage the partnership. Were you dropped because your rate was too high? Lower it(if that makes sense and it’s what you want). Did your client opt for a competitor whose rate or scope of services you could match? Communicate that.
What you’ve learned
My last client dumped me by saying the corporate office brought on an account executive who would be contributing sales help and had the background to help with social media marketing, rendering my role obsolete. I told her that our company’s not equipped to offer sales support, but it was food for thought. Every business needs sales to succeed, so maybe we could integrate some of that work into our marketing packages.
If you’re open to working together again…
Thank your client for your time together, and close with a mention on how you’d like to reconnect in the future if that makes sense for both parties. Check in periodically if this relationship could benefit you later, and you’re not too pissed. : )
And, just for fun- enjoy Queen singing about these woes.
As a business consultant constantly considering scaling and always re-evaluating roles, it’s been on my mind lately if our Local Social salespeople should stick to just sales. In my own experience, I look back to my first job out of college, in B2B market intelligence, where I was constantly frustrated that I had so many other talents and interests but was forced to stick to my 150+ cold calls per day. Then, I think about how happy I’ve been with start ups like CoupMe, where my focus shifted constantly and I was responsible for sales, but had other tasks on my plate too– and a good chunk of “sales” meant account management and client services, really. In the case of the former, I see how I benefited the company, but I left after 8 months from burning out and constantly exceeding my previous milestones in terms of sheer volume and engagement to challenge myself. So, net unsuccessful. In the latter, I see how I benefited the company by sharing a variety of skills, but at a time when the need was for sales, sales, sales, and the team wasn’t delivering, my full attention to selling could have made a significant difference. So, net unsuccessful again.
There’s a pretty clear dichotomy here; on the one hand, we have the argument that sales people should stick to a singular task. Sales is mentally taxing, and demands that an individual be focused on your business’ value adds, relevance in the industry, and economic need to keep selling itself to stay profitable (and keep a team employed). I’d say 95% of the sales people I’ve worked alongside are good at talking to people, gauging emotions and timing, and have the schedule flexibility to put their time in where it’s needed. Maybe they take that 20 minute bitch break at 3:30 pm, but they’re also picking up the phone at 8 to place that call back that a gatekeeper demanded. Those 95% are also not people I felt were better suited to complete other tasks. I wasn’t thinking, Bob’s such a witty writer; it’s too bad he can’t contribute copy or, I wish Susan managed vendor payments since she has a strong administrative background. Now, I’m a 20-something Bostonian who has shied away from super corporate environments, and I’m not going to say I can speak for everyone. But, in my experience, I’ve met very few sales people who I feel are wasting a different talent.
On the other, we have someone like myself. In the case of Local Social, we are two young professionals starting a brand without a budget and without the desire to expand so quickly that we haven’t developed a demand for our services before we build a team. Personally, I’ve backed off sales, because it’s not my strength(and I’m so concerned with hitting financial milestones that I’m not negotiating contracts well), and it is my bias that sales should be a completely separate responsibility. I’m happy to sell our brand in a different way; while I’m not picking up the phone and convincing local business owners to give us a try, I’m locking down clients through network referrals, and selling our services through the client work we do and the (hopefully) useful content posted to our blog.
So, sorry for another “all about me” post. We’re striving to be an industry resource, however, and points on how to delegate workload for an itsy-bitsy new venture are quite relevant. If I’ve given you any insight to take away and consider, then I’m meeting my milestones here. [Source]